Project: propaganda wars

My talk at the Austrian Economics in the 21st Century conference in Vienna dealing with the problem of the information war in the naturalist framework

After spending a few years too many at universities in Western Europe, I got too distracted from my thesis by the question of… How do you manipulate societies so well? How do you keep them infantile? Emotionally weak? Afraid of anyone disagreeing with them? Afraid of any kind of „offense”? How do you keep them so ignorant and so disinterested? And why is academia so vulnerable to these mechanisms? Is it foreign or domestic propaganda wars? You would want people that have high computational power in their brains to remain childish and uninformed. Or maybe it’s a natural process in a society that got a bit too comfortable? Or maybe it’s a mixture?

I do believe it’s a mixture. I will not claim it all on the Soviet propaganda departments, just a little bit of it. However, seeing how much of „the Love Letter to America” has played out in front of my eyes on campuses and conferences, and knowing the organization that distributed flyers in front of the Moscone Center in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting has proven ties to Moscow in the Cold War Era, and after reading „Disinformation”, I wonder…

  • How do you defend yourself against ideological subversion? It is not direct aggression! However, it is engineered to psychologically manipulate others into eventually becoming physically aggressive. Can you unmask the conspiracy? What if it takes the form of art? How do you do it legally and stay true to the natural law?
  • This is classical Popperian paradox, or the paradox of tolerance. And my claim is in 1945 Karl Popper was somehow naive phrasing it. He probably couldn’t grasp just how sneaky propaganda can get. You can never put a clear demarcation line between the tolerant and the intolerant.
  • I argue that if you try to legally silence the propagandists that are „just doing theatre” (with parts written in 1960s Moscow in the KGB building, but who can know about it…) – you will yourself violate the freedom of speech, and end up on a slippery slope leading to propaganda wars between two regimes.
  • The only possible answer is maximum decentralization and culture of responsibility. You cannot trust the law itself to make everything right.

You can follow the project on researchgate and read the current version of the paper here. The first essay was ranked in the top 10 of the 2017 Vernon Smith Prize, and the remastered version will be soon published by Estudios Libertarios.

The preliminary paper is also to be found in “The Indispensability of Freedom”, a book containing most of the papers presented at the 8th International Conference “The Austrian School of Economics in the 21st Century” in Vienna:

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